Moving on from Marvin Lewis apparently isn’t as trouble-free as the Bengals may’ve thought.
Reports surfaced yesterday that the Bengals were zeroing in on hiring Rams’ quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor as their next head coach. Taylor, who’s current team is still in the playoffs, cannot be offered the position or announced as the new coach until his season with the team concludes.
The former is apparently what the Bengals fear the league will find out via an investigation, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk:
Per a league source, the Bengals currently are “terrified” that the league will investigate whether they violated the constantly-violated rules regarding the making of offers to head-coaching candidates before offers can be made.
Now, the initial reports clearly stated that Taylor was simply the preferred option for the Bengals, meaning he’s their top choice and if he remains available by the time he’s free to move on from the Rams.
Bengals would like to hire Rams’ QB coach Zac Taylor after Los Angeles’ season ends, league sources tell @mortreport and me. It looks like it is Taylor’s job to lose. He is the preferred choice.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 10, 2019
As far as we know, the Bengals haven’t offered the job to Taylor yet, because they can’t without violating league rules. But, if Taylor was informed that he is their top choice directly and other candidates for the Bengals’ job were as well, then the Bengals would be in violation of said rules, which is what Florio specifies:
The thinking is that other candidates were informed that Taylor is the choice, and that Taylor has informed colleagues that he is the choice. If that’s true, the line may have been crossed, and the electronic paper trial would easily prove it.
However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported yesterday that Taylor was not informed he was the favorite for the job:
Here is what we know about the #Bengals and their next head coach: The team is likely done interviewing and Zac Taylor, #Rams QB coach, has emerged as the favorite. He has not been informed he’s the guy and no negotiations have taken place. But signs point to him.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 10, 2019
If Taylor was not informed directly by the team he was the favorite, and if no negotiations of a contract have taken place, then the Bengals should be clean from any investigation by the league.
Regardless, this type of situation isn’t exactly new as it happened just last year with the Colts and head coaching-candidate Josh McDaniels, and the Colts didn’t receive any punishment from the league from it. Indianapolis surely had confirmation that McDaniels would follow through on his acceptance to taking the job and were blindsided when he backed out thanks the Patriots’ persuading efforts to keep him.
The Bengals shouldn’t have anything to worry about unless they’ve done more than what was reported yesterday with Taylor. And if Taylor’s Rams lose their playoff game tomorrow night against the Cowboys, then they’ll be free to wrap up the process just like that.